Responding to the Most Common Arguments for God’s Existence December 27, 2011

Responding to the Most Common Arguments for God’s Existence

This is a guest post by Kathy Orlinsky. Kathy writes at The Stochastic Scientist blog.

I listen to a lot of theological discussions and debates. Often, someone will mention the name of a common argument for God’s existence… but I can never seem to remember which argument is which. Maybe you’re in the same boat.

Accordingly, I’ve prepared the following guide for distinguishing five standard apologetics, along with my counterarguments. This isn’t a comprehensive list of arguments, nor does it cover the many nuances of arguments for or against God. Rather, it’s a guide for people like me who just can’t keep the arguments straight.

The Ontological argument: God is the greatest thing ever. Things that exist are greater than things that don’t. Therefore, God must exist.

In essence, this argument is asserting that nonexistence is a flaw. Since God, by definition, has no flaws, he must exist.

Objections: There are a couple of problems with this attempt to “define” God into existence. First, this is what’s known as a circular argument. I define God a certain way, and then proclaim that God must have the specific properties that I defined him to have.

Suppose I define chicken soup as “all-curing soup.” Would I then be justified in insisting that chicken soup can cure all ailments? After all, it can’t be “all-curing soup” if it doesn’t cure everything, but we know it’s “all-curing soup” because that’s the definition of chicken soup.

Second, this argument makes the unsupported assumption that things that exist are better than things that don’t exist. That’s a rather peculiar way to look at the world. Are unicorns more flawed than horses? If I don’t accept that God can have no flaws and/or that nonexistence is a flaw, I’ve defeated the ontological argument.

Transcendental argument (TAG): The goal of this argument is to show that God is the source of logic. This is easily the most confusing of the arguments for God, in part because it requires an understanding of logical absolutes. It also relies on some language sleight of hand that I’ll explain in a minute.

First, what are logical absolutes? These are simply truth statements that can never be contradicted. A is always A; A can’t ever not be A. A cat is always a cat and can never not be a cat.

Neither theists nor atheists take issue with the fact that logical absolutes exist. The question is, why do logical absolutes exist? A typical theist argument (abridged from Matt Slick) goes as follows:

  1. Logical absolutes are transcendent; they are not dependent on time or space
  2. Logical absolutes are conceptual; they have no physical properties.
  3. Concepts are the product of a mind.
  4. Logical absolutes can’t be the product of human minds, which are variable and limited.
  5. Therefore, logical absolutes are the product of God’s mind.

Objections: You may not have noticed, but this argument is no more than a giant play on words. TAG conflates the fact that logical absolutes exist with our ability to recognize that they exist. It’s a bit like confusing the word “cat” with the animal “cat.” The word “cat” may not exist without a mind, but the animal “cat” certainly can. By the same token, the application of logic may require a mind, but logical absolutes are independent of any mind. A cat is still a cat when no one is around.

The same can be said for any abstract idea. Jupiter was still larger than Neptune before anyone understood the concept of size comparison.

There’s no need for an external mind to bring those concepts into being.

Cosmological argument (Kalam argument): Why do we have something rather than nothing? If the universe began in a Big Bang, then what caused the Big Bang? Something must have started the ball rolling. That something could only have been God.

Objections: This argument makes two broad and incorrect assumptions. First, cosmologists today can account for several ways in which our universe could have “come from nothing.” Not being a physicist, I won’t try to do them justice, but I direct your attention to some excellent books by Brian Greene, Victor Stenger, Lawrence Krauss, and others. To name one possibility, our universe may be just one of an infinite number of universes, each in a different stage of formation or destruction.

Second, and more importantly, the cosmological argument assumes that God did not need a creator. Obviously, if you argue that everything has to have been created, then you’ll run into the problem of who created God. And if God doesn’t need a creator, then why does the universe need a creator?

Anthropic principle (fine-tuning argument): There are several universal constants, such as the speed of light, that have specific measurable quantities. If these constants varied by the slightest amount, stars would not form and there could be no life. The chance that all those constants happen to be exactly right for intelligent life to develop on Earth is so infinitesimal, the constants must have been preset by God.

Objections: Proponents of this argument make a lot of unwarranted assumptions about the probability of the existence of life in our universe. For example, they may say, “There’s a one in a thousand chance that constant A has its current value, and there’s a one in a thousand chance that constant B has its current value, so the chance that both have their current values is one in a million.” When they’ve finished with all the constants, they end up claiming that there’s something like 1 chance in 10138 that our universe ended up with the physical properties we require. That sounds highly unlikely, doesn’t it? Too bad there is no basis for either the individual probabilities used or the fact that each constant is independent of all the others.

No one knows whether it’s even possible for physical constants to differ, let alone how likely that would be. Perhaps our universe had to have those exact constants. Or perhaps the constants are all linked in some fashion, such that if one were altered, the rest would have to be changed in some compensatory manner that would also be conducive to life.

All you can really say is that the chance of the physical constants of the universe being exactly right for life is not zero, and may be 100%. After all, the one example we have to study does in fact contain intelligent life.

Argument from design: Living things are so perfectly adapted to their environments and have such intricately amazing inner workings, they must have been purposefully designed. That designer was God. How else can you explain the beauty of a flower or the power of a jaguar? Those things could not have arisen by accident.

Objections: This argument also makes two assumptions, both of which are wrong. The first is that living organisms are perfectly formed. Unfortunately for the argument, and for living creatures, this just isn’t so. Our bodies have many design flaws that no engineer would have allowed. For example, the mammalian laryngeal nerve, which connects the brain to the larynx, does so via a detour around the aorta. In giraffes, it takes over fifteen feet of nerve length to cover the few inches from brain to larynx. Would you choose to loop an extension cord through the middle of your kitchen and back to a plug six inches from the end of your toaster?

Besides, arguing that creatures are perfectly designed for their environments points to a lack of imagination in my opinion. If dolphins were really perfectly designed for their watery environment, wouldn’t they have gills? Or extendable snorkels?

The second assumption is that even if the design is poor, it’s still the only explanation for how living things came to look the way they do. Wrong again. There’s a much better explanation for the diversity of life, and that is evolution. It’s thanks to our common ancestry with fish that our laryngeal nerves shoot off in the wrong direction and have to make a u-turn. In fish, this nerve goes to the last of the gills at the back of the head. As mammals evolved, the gills moved around and became other organs (such as the larynx) but the laryngeal nerve still had to start out in its original direction toward the bottom of the neck.

So those are a few of the most common arguments for God. I’m indebted to the Iron Chariots counter-apologetics wiki maintained by the Atheist Community of Austin for helping me sort them out.

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  • starskeptic

    Pointing out circular reasoning only works if the theist hasn’t been warned against “circular questioning” by atheists…

  • Anonymous

    While not a common named argument, one of the most common arguments is the argument from trees. “If God didn’t make trees why are trees so beautiful?” (insert anything for trees here, and insert many numinous or ineffable feelings for beautiful, “Can you look at a newborn baby and still believe God doesn’t exist?”).

  • Anonymous

    Even if you grant the assumptions, all the Kalam cosmological argument gets you is “something created the universe”. At most you get a creator god or Deism. But we still don’t know whether that creator is really a god and you certainly can’t get to theism. Which god out of the thousands is it? Why does that being care about us? What does it want from us? How does it communicate its wishes? Why does the creator of the universe care what we eat, what we wear, when we work and how we have sex?

  • if you argue that everything has to have been created, then you’ll run into the problem of who created God

    The Kalam avoids this by not saying that everything has to have been created. The first premise is usually “Everything that begins to exist has a cause”, so the get out is that God did not begin to exist.

  • I may see if I can find it later, but a couple years ago (I think) I saw an article in SciAm by some physicists who did computer models of what might happen in a universe in which not one, but two or more universal constants were changed. They found several examples in which altering more than one constant at a time would still seem to allow for the development of something we would still recognize as life. You can use that as an additional counter to the fine-tuning argument.

  • Anonymous

    That’s just the usual special pleading. If you take god out of the boundaries set for everything else, there is no reason why the universe couldn’t have always existed in some other form.

  • I like to respond to the Ontological argument a bit differently: it gives us a definition for God, which allows us to figure out whether a given entity is or isn’t God. It doesn’t prove that there is anything that actually matches the definition.

    For instance, I could define a dragon as an animal with four legs and two wings that breathes fire. Given this, you can examine various things and figure out whether you’ve found a dragon. You can look at a pencil and see that it’s not an animal, therefore it’s not a dragon. You can look at an ant, and see that it doesn’t have four legs, and is therefore not a dragon, and so on.

    I can amend the definition to say that a dragon has to really exist in order to be a dragon. Thus, Smaug in The Hobbit does not match the definition because although he’s an animal with four legs and two wings who breathes fire, he doesn’t exist in reality.

    The same goes for the definition of God in the Ontological argument: part of the definition is that God exists, and thus we know that if X does not exist, then X is not God. That doesn’t mean that there is any X that matches the definition.

  • Myatheistlife

    Human centered arguments are flawed from the start. I think you missed something for the Kalam discussion; define something and nothing, then prove either of them exist. If you can prove there is something, you cannot prove there is nothingness. To even state that something came from nothing is a lie, a preface to a crime. To state that it must be logically true that if there is something there must also be a nothing is unsupportable, untrue, and patently misleading. The assertion of the big bang says nothing about what caused it, only that this appears to be how the existence we know of came to be as it is currently. for all we know, our universe could be just one bubble in the watery splash of a child jumping in mud puddles of another existence. To argue that you know why this universe/existence exists is bizarre and deceitful… even if we think we understand how it came to be in the state it is in currently. This argument is easily dismissed because of the vulgarity of its assumptions. Human kind has never seen ‘nothingness’ as we understand that term. There is no starting point for this argument. Even if one argues that logically, if something exists there must be a quality that is nothingness yet you can not prove such a state ever existed. From the perspective of a fish, air is nothingness.

    Anthropic principle? Define intelligent? We humans may indeed be incompatible with intelligent life because our universe is not tuned just right. To assume that this existence that we know is the pinnacle of ‘existence’ is flawed and wrong. It is merely all that we can imagine. To argue that this existence is some immeasurable truth is  to simply argue from ignorance. Believers in fact argue that this existence is not the pinnacle of existence, and that they alone will move on to the perfect existence. They might have a point though, non-existence has a kind of perfection to it. To argue that the state of physical laws supports the notion that an all powerful deity exists is criminal for such a being could cause us to exist despite the state of physical laws.

    All the arguments for gods make unsupportable suppositions or simply argue from ignorance. Truth has nothing to do with gods, they are incompatible so far as can be shown. Theists themselves argue in my favor. 

  • NorDog

    All of this begs the question: If, as a given for this question, God exists, what evidence for the existence of God would be sufficient for the atheist currently rejecting the exisitence of God?

  • I think a brief acknowledgment to the Cosmological Argument should be made that, at some point, there have to be some sort of physical laws that “come from nothing”, or at least that we cannot answer “why”.  Even if you talk about a foaming bubbling multiverse where all possible universes and all sets of physical laws potentially exist, you still need laws governing the behavior of the multiverse.

    I suspect that this is only existentially dissatisfying because of a cognitive defect in the way we think about the universe.  But it does have to be acknowledged that, at some point in the long chain of “whys”, there will be an answer which is not intuitively existentially satisfying to most people.

    Religion can do no better, of course.  “Goddidit” is even less existentially satisfying, if you think about it.  But it’s worth acknowledging that even though physicists can describe how “something comes from nothing”, there’s still this niggling question we humans are impelled to ask about why those physical properties are they way they are.  Maybe the questions are meaningless, but for some reason we want to as them anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Is it really too much to ask of an omnipotent being to cough up some definite proof for its existence? Just appear to a couple million people without restoring to things like burning bushes. Maybe move some stars around to spell it out.

  • Anonymous

    Saying that “something can’t come out of nothing” is wrong anyways – or it depends on a misconception of “nothing”. It happens all the time. Virtual particles pop into existence constantly and almost immediately disappear again. The subatomic world depends on that to function. They are often exchange particles of fundamental forces. Virtual photons play a major role in many physical concepts. But occasionally they have some larger consequences, such as the Casimir effect.

    And technically, physical laws don’t govern anything. They don’t cause anything. They just describe how things happen. Laws are a man-made abstraction, not a force of nature

  • Another thing about the anthropic principle is that the universe doesn’t care if we exist.  Even if the chances of us being here are incredibly unlikely, that doesn’t change the fact that had things been different and life had never existed, nobody would be there to care.

    Imagine a non-entity thinking “Hey, if light was slower, we could have intelligent life on a planet called Earth!  But God is a angry God and knowing his creation would eventually dismiss him, He tweaked the rules of nature making life impossible!” 

    The odds of us being here doesn’t prove that something magical happened, it’s just one of the many possibilities that had to occur.  Call it random chance and stop giving it divine meaning already!

  • The question ‘Do you believe in God’ to me always begs the question — What is the definition of ‘God.’ For example, all primitive cultures have some kind of Creation myth, where God or gods create the earth, and perhaps suggest rites, rituals, and morals onto Humanity.

    Once that creation myth is abandoned, what is left in the Religious mythology, that one would cling to? Is One’s religion no more that a collection of Morality Plays, teaching granted – important questions, or does one have a untestable, unprovable belief in a supernatural element? Ex: does the Soul exist, is there an Afterlife? Does the Christian Scientist, for example avoid medical care, because it’s seen as abandoning God? Does the Catholic avoid divorce because Marriage means God led him/her to this spouse, and God wouldn’t make a mistake?


  • Anonymous

    Easy. I simply demand the same level of proof that Thomas got in the Bible. 

  • Let’s just say this: God should know what it would take to convince me. He should also know what wouldn’t be convincing to me and wouldn’t be attributable to mere coincidence or circumstance.

    If Bob is a theist who wants to convince me, he could also do this: pray to his god, and ask him/her/it what it thinks would be the best way to convince me. If it works and I’m convinced, his prayer has worked and God would have revealed himself to me through Bob. Otherwise, he was just another theist using faulty arguments against a practiced skeptic mind.

  • Precisely. How I explain it is, it’s very possible (and actually likely) that, before the Big Bang, the universe may have “existed” in a completely different way. It was an eternal void where quantum fluctuations occurred (as they do now) and one of them was strong enough to have triggered a rapid expansion of energy (and, therefore, matter). There are also ways around the flimsy Kalam argument.

  • An additional problem with the ontological argument is it implicitly assumes the ordering relationship is for a join-semilattice. However, unless the person is a math major, they won’t understand what that means, and are unlikely to sit through an explanation that boils down to translating “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” into set theory.

    The fine-tuning argument also involves the implicit assumption of “life as we know it”; and for that matter, most biologists will (if you put a few drinks in them, pin them into a corner, and twist their arm) admit that the concept of “life” is not very precisely demarcated, any more than membership in a “species” is. There’s some things that pretty obviously fall in the category, and others that pretty obviously fall out, but there are some (such as viruses) that fall in or out of the category depending on what biologist you talk to.

    I’d also add that the “argument from design” neglects the degree that design is itself an evolutionary process — a point even most engineers don’t notice, but that is exceedingly obvious in the history of technology in any detailed study of the invention process.

  • Momma J

    Easy, that God cares about us because he made man kind and wants to have a relationship with you. There is only 1 true God. 

    Why does He care about what you do? Hmm… you have children? Do you care if your children follow your established rules? Do you have purposes behind setting those rules? When confronted with the rules do your children understand the rules AND fully understand why the rules are in place? Do your children always like the rules? How does it make you feel when your children break the same rule for the 100th time? What is the solution when your children have broken the same rule for the 100th time? Do you love your children after they have broken the rules?

  • Momma J

    That’s an incredibly random chance that all factors in the universe and on this little blue planet to be just right. For the naturists, isn’t that their job, to tell me how life could have existed without a Creator? 

    What is the definition of evolution? What is the definition of genetic mutation? Are gene mutations good or bad?

  • Momma J

    Wrong question. I know that a God exists. I’ve seen miracles happen before. I could tell you about them, but you wouldn’t believe them. Why? Because the Bible says you’ve hardened your heart towards Him.

    I’ve actually seen a blind person regain their sight as a friend of mine prayed for them. Right there on the spot! Can I explain it? No. Do I have to explain it? No. Can you explain how a college student with no medical background heal a blind person? If you can explain that by any means other than a super natural healing then you will have one me over. Good luck!

    FYI, the evidence is all around you that He exists. The creation of nature, if you’ll just slow down long enough to take it in is enough evidence!

  • Momma J

    You’re assuming God is like santa clause or a genie who answers our wishes.  I don’t know all about God, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how He normally works

  • Brakkepie

    That’s funny, just two minutes before you wrote this reply you wrote: I’ve actually seen a blind person regain their sight as a friend of mine prayed for them.

  • God’s pimple

    What gets me is, how many Christians actually came to the religion through any of these arguments? My guess if very few.

  • Anonymous

    The Kalam cosmological argument doesn’t arrive at a personal god. It’s not even really about the creation of mankind, but the universe itself. So that doesn’t follow at all. The only conclusion is “the universe was created by something”. It doesn’t explain how things went on from there. For example everything else could have developed naturally.

    Of course I’d love them. Unlike your god I wouldn’t blame and punish my children for my own mistakes. If they broke some rule, I certainly wouldn’t murder them. I wouldn’t punish for things I’m responsible for or things they couldn’t have known were wrong. And I wouldn’t banish them to basement to torture them for eternity or even threaten them with it.

  • Anonymous

    Evolution by natural selection isn’t random. That’s the whole point. Never mind that evolution has nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of life

  • Edmond

    A real parent sits with their child and explains why the rules are important.  He does not hide from the child, while writing down his rules and depending on other children to deliver these rules FOR him, which is the result of religion.  If god is the parent, he has left us to rely on each other’s claims of what the parent wants.

    A good parent’s rules make sense.  They are intended to help the child remain safe, and navigate life successfully into adulthood.  Some of god’s rules make NO sense.  We are told that god forbids homosexuality, but there is no good reason for that rule, especially not for people who feel same-sex attraction.  Many of the rules in Leviticus are not only non-sensical, but also immoral.  Rules about mixed fabrics?  Tattoos?  Shellfish?  The quarantining of menstruating women?  These are not the rules of a loving parent.  They do nothing to protect us or improve our lives.

    A worthy parent will do their best to pass on the rules to the child, but eventually the child will grow and become their own adult, free to make their own rules.  The child must eventually be respected as an equal by the parent.  This growth never occurs in religion.  We must remain forever children, with god as the eternal parent.  There is never the opportunity to mature, and move past the parent-child relationship into equals.  We are never free to make our OWN rules, as should happen in a healthy parent-child relationship.

    In any case, the god of religion does not punish children for disobedience.  The only real crime that god punishes for is disbelief.  Die without believing in god, and go to Hell.  There is no appropriate analogy for this in parenting.  Any parent who remained invisible, and who punished their children with eternal burning torture if they did not believe in them, would be a twisted individual indeed.

  • Jonathan Schreiner

    The solution to the problem of my children disobeying my rules was to kick my firstborn out of the house. Since that didn’t fix him I decided to just drown my second child. After that I just resorted to stoning them until they listened.

    My wife is pretty tired of having children that have to be killed but I remind her that it is her lot in life to do exactly as I say. If she is disobedient I will stone her as well and get a new one that will listen.

    Have you actually read the bible? The only thing it proves is that if there is a god he is a deplorable creature completely unworthy of anyone’s love or respect. He is a violent, egotistical dictator.

    Basically, if he is real and if you worship him, you are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

  • And you’re assuming you know anything about how this god works. Theists have yet to prove he exists, but many of them claim to know what he wants, what he likes, what he demands, what he can and cannot do, etc. How do you know?

    Then again, would a benevolent god punish somebody for using their innate skepticism and critical thinking skills to realize that the evidence for him was so minuscule that it did not make sense to believe him? Would it makes sense for him to bestow upon his creations the ability to reason and use logic, and allow us to use it to deduce that he is not real?

  • Edmond

    It’s not that “incredible”.  There are billions of galaxies in our universe.  There are billions of stars in each galaxy.  This gives us trillions of opportunities for the factors to be right for life to develop around many, many stars.

    The definition of evolution-small changes over time leading to larger changes.  In biology, this causes a slow, subtle change in a species over millions of years.

    The definition of genetic mutation-an error in the DNA copying process, resulting in genetic coding that is different from what would normally be passed on.

    Gene mutations can be “good” or “bad”, depending on the effect they have on the organism.  If a mutation causes an animal to be born with stump legs or without eyes, that’s “bad” because it will probably result in the death of the animal (though it might be “good” because those faulty genes should not be passed on).  If a mutation causes an animal to be born with slightly longer and more agile legs, or with improved eyesight, then that is definitely “good”.  It will likely result in that organism being more successful than its cousins, and it will pass its improvements on to its offspring.

    After millions of years, these little changes build up, and eventually the offspring no longer resemble their ancient ancestors very much.  Voila, a new species has evolved.

  • Edmond

    Whatever experiences you have had, especially those that you cannot explain, do not count as “evidence”.  Don’t hold it against someone if your “evidence” is not enough to convince them.

    Are YOU even sure of your “evidence”?  Did you know this blind person?  Were you medically certain they were blind?  Were you medically certain they were healed?  Can you be sure they had no motivation to deceive you and your friend?

    It seems that if healings of this sort were actually taking place, it would be a simple matter to investigate them and provide some REAL evidence that could convince the world.

    And the existence of nature is not “evidence” of any gods, either.  The universe does not have a giant tag hanging from it reading “Made In Heaven” or “Inspected by Jehovah”.  The existence of the universe is only proof of the existence of the universe, nothing more.  There’s nothing else about it that allows us to make assumptions about gods or their sons, or their scriptures.

  • hman

    Ah, yes my favorite..a classic.  In a perfect Dawkinsian universe:  Chaotic; empty; unsympathetic and perfectly random.  Undefined and immeasurable particles of matter RANDOMLY passed from existence to “unexistence”  continuously , UNTIL sufficient numbers of these particles RANDOMLY AND COLLECTIVELY EXISTED SIMULTANEOUSLY in order to enact the big bang.  I’m not arguing the big bang, but that is a lot of coincidental randomness.  And  depending on  which disciple of Dawkins that you research some or all of these particles existed and unexisted CONCURRENTLY…which is  some serious Dr. Who/Star Trek  sh@ t!   There is yet no explanation to the exist/don’t exist moments or why this phenomenon no longer occurs.   The mathematical odds against these phenomenon occurring randomly and in the order they needed to for life to appear anywhere in the universe is staggering.  The odds that they occur two or more times is astronomical.  It doesn’t exactly push Thomas Aquinas completely out of the picture.

  • Deadline_Delayed

    I’d agree with that in general. Unfortunately, belief in the existence of God has little to nothing to do with these arguments for theists. These arguments are brought up as ways to justify what they already believe in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Then the real question remains, why are there blind people?

  • Per Stefansson

    There is an INSANELY low probability that you would even type in that comment! And yet you DID! Is it like 1 in 10^50? More!
    The internet might not have been invented, and neither might the microprocessor, or electricity. The Third World War might have occured. Your mother and father might had sex to concieve the day before or the minute after they did – and then “you” wouldn’t have existed. This blog post might never had existed, or you might have missed it because you tripped and stumped your toe and didn’t go onto the internet that night… I can go on and on and on and on. And you don’t seem the slightest baffled about those odds.
    And, if life WASN’T possible – we wouldn’t even have this conversation about how low the probability was (regardless of how little we know about the constants indepence from each other)!

    And, even if we couldn’t say anything about how life began, that doesn’t mean you can stick any fairytale, made-up story in there and say “There, I’ve solved it”. No, you haven’t even given a plausible explanation – especially since you have no evidence to back it up.
    Logical proofs of existence for a common concept like a god are only as good as the evidence you feed into them.

  • Parse

    No, we wouldn’t believe them because you don’t provide any evidence to back them up.  Why should we believe some random person that they witnessed a miracle, when they can’t provide any proof this occurred?  

    Names, dates, medical records, contemporaneous news articles, television reports, medical articles; any of these would lend some weight to your story.  Or does trying to confirm what you say count as ‘hardening our hearts towards Him’?

  • Anonymous

    And this has what precisely to do with Dawkins? He is an evolutionary biologist. Not an astrophysicist.

  • Drakk

    Have you ever played the Assassin’s Creed games? Do so. In particular the second and onwards. Watch the endings.

    Something like that happened to me, I’d be damn well convinced there was some kind of god.

  • Heidi

    I saw that article, too.  I want to say it was from some time in the fall of 2010…?

  • Heidi

    If the Biblical god doesn’t perform on demand, then please explain 1 Kings 18:23-29. 

    The whole point of the test was that Elijah could get his god to perform on demand, but the priests of Ba’al couldn’t do it. Thus Ba’al was deemed to not really be a god, because he wouldn’t light the barbecue.

  • No god wrote the Bible.  It was written and compiled by individuals with a vested interested in controlling (via manipulation) women, children, prisoners of tribal war (including slaves); and those with the financial assets they require to advance their domination.  That the Bible suggests we’ve “hardened hearts” is a preemptive strike against those who dare question its tautological conclusions, oppression, and capricious inconsistencies.  These types of sociopathic judgments create very annoyed, militant atheists; so, please, keep ’em comin’.

    As for you, well, there aren’t enough people in the “liberal media” to quash the “miracle” of “healing” you claim to have “witnessed.”  I, for one, am willing to entertain the “evidence” if you’re willing to present it.

  • Anonymous

    For one (of many) thing, Momma J, you’re making several key mistakes in your understanding of probability.

    For instance, the odds of something happening are generally based not only on the odds of an individual occurrence, but on the number of opportunities.  So we don’t talk about the Earth as if it were pre-selected for life, but rather, ask, “What are the odds that the process of planet formation could yield a planet in this set of parameters?  Okay, now, how many instances of planetary formation have occurred since the beginning of the Universe?  Okay, THERE is the odds of ‘this little blue planet’ to be ‘just right’.”

    And, beyond that, you’re assuming that certain constants need to be within a narrow range for life to occur, but there’s no real reason to believe that many of them could not be drastically different–that the ‘ideal’ temperature, amount of light, atmospheric conditions, mineral presence, etc., might not all be wildly altered and still capable of producing a form of life–not one we currently have on Earth, maybe not one we would instantly recognize as ‘alive’ until we’d observed it long enough to determine that it was, indeed, replicating–but life, none the less.

    As for “Are gene mutations good or bad?”, it’s a silly, silly question, formed entirely from a blend of ignorance and arrogance.  To be clear, the answer is “Both, neither, or either, depending on the circumstances at the time.”

  • jonas opines

    That was very well stated, and I think I’ll save it somewhere.

  • jonas opines

    ” Because the Bible says you’ve hardened your heart towards Him.”
    Interestingly, the Bible Actually says, in most translations, that God caused the Pharoah to harden his heart, so that God could make all of his miracles and look great and powerful to his people.  That was actually the passage that ultimately decided me against him.  I don’t care if he exists or he doesn’t in my daily life, but I won’t worship him, because he is evil.  If I ever found out that he did exist, and that he Was the way that he is described in the Bible, I would spend the rest of my existence (how little or long it was), attempting to overthrow him.    Fortunately, I also believe that the Bible was simply written by men, a culmination text of a rich and long history of oral tradition from a primitive society, and that is is simply their values that we are being told are absolutes.  

  • Cdk51179

    I was in the act of standing up as I read the last bit, & read it as “the larynx still had the nerve to start out in its original direction…”

  • usclat

    You are SO right asonge. How can we look at a newborn baby and still not believe in Allah! Or is it Buddha? Yahweh? Quetzalcoatl? Jesus? Thor? Krishna? Oh come on! Who is it we’re supposed to believe in?! 


  • I think this might be it. With the paywall, I can’t tell for sure though. It’s from the January 2010 issue for print, or the December 16, 2009 online issue (if I’m interpreting the dates right). 

  • amyc

    I really like this response. I had never thought of it that way.

  • Dan W

    I have seen and heard many arguments for the existence of god(s) over the years that I’ve been an atheist. I have not yet encountered a single one that made any sense.

  • You see, this is exactly what makes religion look inane.

    First off, adding in ALL CAPS doesn’t make your argument work any better at all, and to many of us, it simply makes you look either desperate or childish. Just a little tip.

    Second, Dawkins is a biologist, and actually proposed nothing that you mentioned whatsoever. While he’s one of the most outspoken atheists around, the value is in being highly visible and concise, not in anything in particular that he’s said.

    Chaotic, no – everything actually follows some simple forces; look up “fundamental interactions.” Empty, no. Unsympathetic, yes – emotions are subconscious guides of only living things. Random, no – see above. That’s two sentences and four (perhaps five) fails so far.

    Then who the hell knows what it is you’re talking about next, but reading something about the Big Bang might actually help your arguments work a little better. Those of us who know even a few details about cosmology find this to be nothing but an ignorant rant. The things that you seem to believe are random occurrences, aren’t.

    What you might want to consider the most, however, is that cosmological theories predicted numerous discoveries long before we had the ability to make them (black holes, cosmic microwave background, star life, gravitational lensing, etc.) while theology not only predicts nothing, it provides nothing but excuses. Aquinas, if you read carefully, provided no new information whatsoever; he merely tried to fit what we already knew into scripture that was assumed true, and merely waved away that which he couldn’t explain.

  • John Frazer

    My favorite response to the fine-tuning argument is to point out that actually, this universe we’re in is generally extremely hostile to life. If you look at the ration of life-bearing to lifeless regions by volume, the vast, vast majority is not fine-tuned at all (even assuming that life is abundant on extrasolar planets, which is beyond our technological ability to determine at this time).

    And, of course, these anthropic principle people never really seem to devote time to the possibility that perhaps some other combination of rules might lead to a form of life we’ve never imagined.

  • “That’s an incredibly random chance that all factors in the universe and on this little blue planet to be just right.”

    No, not really. You should probably find out how probability actually works. Part of this was addressed in the original post that you, apparently, did not actually read. The “just right” conditions that you speak of are actually quite easy to come by, given the common proportions of raw materials in the universe and a given distance from the star. Simple energy exchanges that we call “life” are a whole lot less complicated than the fusion from stars that produces different elements in the first place.

    Of course, what I really want to hear myself is the probability of some omnipotent being existing, and how that is calculated…

    “For the naturists, isn’t that their job, to tell me how life could have existed without a Creator?”

    “Naturist” is, loosely, another term for “nudist.” I suspect the word you wanted was “naturalist,” which still doesn’t fit, since they study how nature works, or more specifically, how species interact and react to their environment. Evolutionary biologists that study abiogenesis is what you’re after with that statement. Why, what do you want to know about RNA and protein formation?

    “What is the definition of evolution? What is the definition of genetic mutation?”

    Google is your friend.

    “Are gene mutations good or bad?”

    Neither – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are human value judgments, and only apply if you have a goal in mind. A genetic mutation that provides for more efficiency, better adaptation to the environment, or more preferred sexual traits stands the greatest chance of being passed on to offspring. There’s really nothing else to it.

    It might interest you to know (or not, I suspect) that change, adaptation, survival, disease, competition, predation, and extinction are all completely pointless concepts for a designed universe. Yet they make perfect sense in an undirected one governed only by physical laws.

  • Something that actually has more affect on my life than the root beer sitting on my desk right now would be a good start. Seriously, I don’t need much for belief – just something that has some use at all.

    Now, if you’re asking what would make me believe in a good golfer, watching a low-scoring game would be a start. If you ask what would make me believe in the best golfer around, I’d want to see some serious competition with as many players as possible. If you propose the best golfer ever to exist, in the past or in the future to come, then you’ve hit a wall of not being able to provide any evidence of such a thing, haven’t you?

    So what do you think would demonstrate an omnipotent being? And does this, at least, give you an idea why word games don’t count to most of us?

  • It might not be a very strong argument, but I often think that the existence of God is contradicted by the existence of apologists.

    Step back and look at all this argumentation for the existence of the biggest, most powerful, most important, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proposition of Propositions. Why the heck are would something as puny as an argument be necessary to show it exists??

    There are no apologists for the sun. You don’t need to come up with a long-winded,   elaborate, delicate, circuitous, fanciful, and ultimately flawed argument to support the proposition that the sun exists; you just need to step outside and see its brightness and feel its warmth.  You can study its movement, structure, changing weather patterns, spectrum, chemistry, temperature, and inner processes. You can use its radiation, manipulate its energy into different forms, collect it, disperse it, and block it off entirely. You can see the family resemblance in bigger, smaller, older, younger, brighter, dimmer, hotter, and colder suns that are farther away, and you can make rational predictions of the way it will age as time goes on.

    But the one thing you don’t need to do is to argue that it’s there.

  • The point about Elijah and the priests of Ba’al is further developed here: And then the people haul the 450 priests of Baal down to the river
    Kishon and slit their throats.  This is stern, but necessary.  You must
    firmly discard the falsified hypothesis, and do so swiftly, before it
    can generate excuses to protect itself.  If the priests of Baal are
    allowed to survive, they will start babbling about how religion is a
    separate magisterium which can be neither proven nor disproven.

  • OK, so then you’re disputing premise 2: “The universe began to exist”. The point is that “who created God?” is not a valid response to the Kalam.

  • NorDog

    Aquinas rejected the “ontological” argument of Anselm, id est, the argument from definition, for that reason explicitly.

  • Anonymous

    The universe in its current form began to exist. But the current hypothesis is that some kind of singularity or quantum state existed before and that fluctuations in it led to the expansion of space-time. By the same logic that says god is eternal, that singularity could have existed “before” (as much as it possible to talk about “before”)

  • Anonymous

    Even our own planet is somewhat hostile to life in the grand scheme of things. At least to human life. 60% of it is saltwater. Large parts are deserts and mountains that are very inhospital. There have been multiple mass extinctions already. Most species that ever lived are extinct.

    Then when you take a look at it from a cosmological perspective it gets worse. We are constantly bombarded with rocks from space. Several of which already caused global catastrophes. Our sun is getting hotter, so that in a couple billion years, it will be too hot for liquid water to exist. A few billion years after that, it will swell and gobble up the inner planets. That’s some bad design

  • This is one of my usual responses for the fine tuning argument:

    Let’s say that you went outside on a windy day and stood in a grassy field. You have with you a small bag of flour. You waited until a strong gust of wind and started throwing flour in the air until it is all gone. One particle of this flour was lofted high by the wind and was carried almost a mile before it came to rest against a blade of grass. The way it sat on the leaf helped it trap a small amount of moisture the following evening. The wind also brought in a wild yeast spore that upon landing where the flour particle landed found both water and food, in the form of  flour, and began to grow.

    Now for this yeast spore to grow in this way and at this spot an incredibly complex set of circumstances had to take place. You had to be standing on a certain spot in a certain field and thrown the flour at a certain precise point in time. If the wind that carried the particle had dropped in force by the smallest amount it would not have carried it as far as it had and would not have deposited it on a certain piece of grass. If the particle had not landed as it did it might not have clung to the grass. If the particle had not sat at a precise elevation and orientated exactly as it did along it’s x, y, and z axises, it would not have trapped the moisture that caught the yeast spore and provided it with all it needed to grow and reproduce.

    Now the odds of the spore reproducing in that exact location at that exact point in time are astronomical. I doubt that even the largest supercomputer that we now have could figure them out exactly. Yet there it is. And let’s not forget that we haven’t even considered the complex set of circumstances that brought the spore to that precise location as well or the odds that the yeast that produced that spore would find conditions that allowed it to reproduce and release it into the wind at the right time and location for it to find it’s way to the flour particle. You can look at the odds and declare that there is no way this could not happen with someone guiding the process but the fact it happened proves that it is indeed possible.

    The fact is that the circumstances and the laws of physics determined how this journey played out. Much like the puddle that determines that the hole it rests in must have been designed for it since it fits it so perfectly, the creationist looks at the universe and declares that it must have been designed for them. We were shaped by the universe and not we by it.

    You can shape this argument to fit whoever you are talking to and where you happen to be. If in a restaurant, take a pinch of salt and toss it on the table and ponder the odds of a particular grain of it ended up in the precise position it rests in. If at home, toss some toothpicks and pick one to use as an example. The fact of it is that things happen despite the incredible odds against them from doing so every moment of every day, all without a guiding hand.

  • Momma J

    Jonathan, have you read the Bible? The WHOLE Bible and not just the parts that support your side of the argument?

    The point of the OT law is that it can’t be followed because we are not perfect people. God is perfect and sets the bar at such a high standard  that we can’t do anything but miss it. This proves that He is higher than we are. It’s a scary thought if this is indeed true. That’s why Jesus came into the picture:

    Rom 8:3-4
    “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin… so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us”

    Please try reading the INTIRE Bible. I’ve read the entire books of several atheistic authors’ viewpoints. If you are supposed to be reasoned and educated I would have thought that you would have read the entire opposing viewpoint. 

    Where do you get you knowledge of the Bible from? Is it from here say, pastors growing up, radical fundamentalists, or from your own studies?

  • Momma J

    1)Rules making sense:
         Of course the rules are supposed to make sense. But try sitting      down with a 2 year old and telling them not to run in the street by      themselves or else they might get killed. The 2-yr old child may: a)      Not believe you b/c they have no experience to draw from b) Might      simply be disobedient for whatever reason or c) Not be able to      understand the consequences of such actions. Reason is not a       strong suit for most 2 year olds. This is one of the biggest       differences b/w adults and children, cognitively speaking,      is that adults can think through the consequences and children      are still developing that ability. 
         And so it stands to reason that a parent’s rules can makes sense to 
         the parent, but might not makes sense to the child.

    2) Ridiculous laws:
     By not studying the Bible, it’s possible that some of those wild rules that you mentioned, you don’t understand them because you haven’t actually studied why they are in place a) for the people they were originally written to and b) What is required of us today. I allude to that a bit in a response to Jonathan below.3)Children becoming equals:    You are trying to apply a cultural point of view on what your western lifestyle tells you is the norm for relationship development b/w you and your parents. If you grew up in E.Asia or even the middle east you would never be considered an “equal” to your parents or elders as long as they are alive. That’s because no matter how much life you have lived, they still have lived longer and have gained a bunch of life wisdom that you have not.     Unless you can outlive God then your wisdom is still considered small and finite compared to that of an infinite Father. So your example of the child growing up to be an equal is strictly a western culture idea.4) God not punishing for disobedience?
         Go back and re-read most of the Old Testament of the Bible. It is     
         filled with punishment as a direct consequence to disobedience.
           a) Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden of Eden
           b) Israel’s captivity by the Egyptians
           c) Sodom and Gomorrah 
           d) Israel’s captivity by the Babylonians and Persians
           etc, etc, etc

  • My dad always falls back on the “then how do you explain how perfect the human body is?” line of *logic*. I usually just roll my eyes and walk off. Think I will use your example next time. Maybe he can choke on that for a while.

  • I wish I *had* written that, that’s even better.

  • Gerry

    It’s interesting that you mention miracles because I don’t understand the connection between miracles and religion. If you or someone prays, and god does as you wish, that’s not a miracle, that’s simple cause-and-effect, right?

    A miracle is something that just happens for no clear reason. There’s no obvious connection between miracles and religion or faith, except after the fact. Do miracles only come from a god, or are there other sources? Can you clarify that for me?

  • Edmond

    1) We are not 2 year olds. We DO have cognitive skills. We CAN analyze the reasons for a rule. It’s clear that these old rules were made by primitive people who had a poor understanding of the world around them. They weren’t made by a just and loving god that wanted us to have a peaceful, successful society. If that were true, there would have been no rules for keeping (and even beating) slaves. The rule would have been: Thou shalt not own another human being. It’s as simple as that.
    2) Like slave keeping? Like the death sentence for a woman who does not scream loud enough during a rape? Why would laws like this EVER have been moral, for people of ANY time? Things like this ONLY make sense if it were HUMANS making these laws, not gods.
    3) It’s actually Christianity that’s trying to apply this cultural point of view. I was not the one suggesting that a parent-child relationship exists. That is a Christian analogy. I am saying that this is a BAD analogy. I don’t know of ANY culture that keeps its children permanently infantilized and NEVER grants them the personal sovereignty of adulthood.
    4) The ultimate punishment is being forbidden from entering Heaven. God does not bar people from Heaven for disobedience, only for disbelief.
    But let’s consider these other punishments. Are you saying that your god maintains a criminal justice system where, in ADDITION to being punished with Hell in the afterlife, people are ALSO punished for independent crimes? So, they are punished TWICE? Even OUR justice system is not so corrupt and unfair.
    Are you saying that things like natural disasters and invading nations are the tools god uses to dish out punishment? Does this go for disease as well? Is this still true today? Can god’s will be deduced from modern day earthquakes or oil spills? Can ANYONE decode god’s intended message from these events? Can we trust them all, even if they contradict?
    Was god punishing Poland when Germany invaded? Were the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians just god’s puppets, unable to act on their own motivations? Were they RIGHT to enslave the Israelites, since they were doing god’s work for him?
    These stories and claims just don’t jive with what I understand about reality, OR with what I understand about justice and punishment. Instead, they jive with what I understand about primitive assessments and mythology. I can’t much accept a claim that god punished Adam & Eve by evicting them from a magic garden, if I don’t believe that there were any such people or place. Humanity developed from lower life forms evolving into higher forms. We aren’t the product of a 2-person gene pool (more like a gene thimble) who were punished for daring to seek the knowledge of good and evil on the advice of a talking snake. This is MYTH.

  • Michael Appleman

    Yeah thats a common misconception. Laws describe what happens. Theories are an attempt at explaining why.

  • Parse

    Momma J summarized: “Your weak human mind cannot hope to understand God; therefore you need me to understand him for you.  Trust me.”

  • I think this is an important point: I have read the entire Bible, and it is deplorable.
    So what if there are pretty bits in it? The work of a perfect author would be only pretty and good and useful bits. Do you find use in segregating women during their menstrual cycle? Or stoning homosexuals?

    The fact that the moral standard has been set so unattainably high (and, incidentally, so indistinguishably far from morality) should raise serious about the omniscience and benevolence of the author (indeed, I think the author is a callous groups of rather ignorant tribes-men).

    The content of the Bible is not an issue of ‘solution’. You can’t dismiss the truly horrendous passages of God’s phenomenal, unrelenting, remorseless, unapologetic fury and punishment by simply saying ‘what about the rest of it?’

    I’ve read the whole thing, but no-one should have to in order for the evil bits of the Bible to be strictly relevant.

  • Anonymous

    The human body has numerous other design flaws. You can probably find something on Google.

    For example:
    *We can’t synthesize Vitamin C like many other animals, which leads to death when suffering from a poor diet
    *Our spine isn’t made for upright walking, which is why so many people suffer from disk problems as they get older
    *The appendix
    *In our eyes, the blood vessels and nerve fibers pass in front of the retina and the optical nerve goes through the retina, creating a blind spot. Cephalopods (squids, octopuses) have this fixed. Their eyes evolved independently

  • Momma J

    Ignorant tribes-men? How is a doctor that spoke 3 languages ignorant? 

    The content of the Bible does have a solution, but you have to understand the root of the problem first before you get it. 

  • Momma J

    Ignorant tribes-men? How is a doctor that spoke 3 languages ignorant? 

    The content of the Bible does have a solution, but you have to understand the root of the problem first before you get it. 

  • Momma J

    Ignorant tribes-men? How is a doctor that spoke 3 languages ignorant? 

    The content of the Bible does have a solution, but you have to understand the root of the problem first before you get it. 

  • Danielpesante314

    Did this really happen? I have a few friends that could really use your help, and we’ll see if it works on them too. I would have to say that MOST evidence points in any direction BUT your God. But hey, if we cannot find any other more logical reason for which that guy was suddenly not blind, then ok! We’ll have to test it again and again, because thats what good science does!

  • Momma J

    1) Of course we aren’t 2 year olds, but did you create the earth? Did you imagine what an ostrich or platypus should look like? Our intelligence is pretty small compared to God. Take a step back and ask yourself if God does exist, would a be like a 2 year old compared to Him?

    2) There just isn’t enough room to start talking about old Jewish law and why each of those existed. However, your quick web search on the most hard-to believe laws is impressive. I’ll field the first one you mentioned. Slavery. It is possible to be a slave and to learn how to become closer to God, similarly to having a really bad job but working through it because you need the money. Have you ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin before? Its would give you a clearer example of how this is possible perhaps. 
    It’s possible that the point of slavery is perhaps to learn how to properly relay on God. If everything is easy in your life why would you have need for God in your life?

    The book of Job is an example of how this plays out. The synopsis is that Satan accuses God’s followers of only following Him because He gives them a cush life. So God pretty much curses everything that Job has come in touch with. He loses everything. His friends encourage him to give up his faith in God, and yet he doesn’t. He stands firm. By doing this, it glorifies God and makes His name more famous and Job learns to content in both the good times and the bad. For sure cultural context is a HUGE factor when reading old testament law. Just like someone from Japan might be a bit confused if they read old local laws in the U.S. Things like keeping a lantern 20 feet ahead of your horse drawn carriage while downtown. I’ve met several people in Asia who thought the middle U.S. States were still playing cowboys and indians and the everyone carries a gun on them.

    Just because YOU do not understand the law does not mean that they did not have a purpose at that time, in that culture.

    3) You are correct, even eastern culture does not keep their children “permanently infantilized. I never said that they do. I was just saying that in eastern cultures have much more respect for their elders than we do. They still honor their parents and their wishes to a certain degree. That degree is much higher than we do here in the west. To a much higher degree this is what children of God are to do. Honor not just our earthly parents, but our heavenly father as well. Its a bit different though because our earthly parents, while the have a ton of wisdom, are not perfect and do not know what’s right for us at all times. They have more experience, and because of that I always listen and weight their advice no matter the subject. But if God is a heavenly Father and creator, then He would have to be honored in all situations and topics because He does know what’s best for us. 

    On a side note, I do not agree at all with Mormonism, but they would say that equality with God is possible and that everyone becomes a God in the afterlife. To me that messes up every bit of theology that has led up to that point and deters the motives for living a God pleasing life. Anyone who says Mormonism is following the Bible or says Mormons are Christians too, clearly hasn’t studied either faith in any detail.

    4) Disbelief in God is disobedience. See commandment #1 of the 10 Commandments. By saying there is no God then you are either putting your faith in yourself and your knowledge or you are putting you faith in science and believing someone else as they tell you that there is no God. Either way, there is a statement of faith made. If you put your faith in something else besides God, then you have in a sense placed something else (knowledge, nature, science) as your God. So disbelief is the same as disobedience

  • . . . . Wow. You actually tried defending slavery. Is genocide next?

    No. There’s nothing that justifies the kidnapping of people to make them slaves, making prisoners of war into slaves, or basically slavery, period. Whether it somehow makes it easier for the slave to “relay (sic) on God,” a questionable value at best, is irrelevant. Forcing servitude onto another human being is immoral, and deserves only condemnation. 

    And the story of Job only shows a man unwilling to part ways with his abuser. There are unfortunate psychological aspects that feed into a victim’s inability to break with their abuser, and the God of Job is apparently a master at manipulating those. God allowed/caused all that to happen to Job, including the loss of his wife and children, all to prove a point to the devil? That is evil. Pure, plain, and simple evil.If such a God truly exists, then he deserves condemnation and disgust, not worship. Since he doesn’t exist, then at the moment, *you* disgust me.

    And a quick point to the “disbelief=disobedience” bit: if the all-powerful God isn’t willing to provide concrete, solid proof of his existence, then the only one to blame is God. To blame us for seeking evidence is also immoral.

  • Momma J

    I am not personally endorsing slavery by any means. I’m simply saying that is should be viewed as a trial for the person in captivity. Similar to someone with a chronic illness perhaps? The comparison obviously breaks down, but my point is that we all go through experiences that suck. It’s how we react to God during those circumstances is what’s important. 

    Read the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors for a good example of how to act during slavery. No way am I saying that slavery is okay. I’m saying that if I found myself in that position, then I would simply work to be the best slave that I could be…and God would still be God. He doesn’t change just b/c I’m in a position that I don’t desire. 

    I’d be curious where you get your definition of evil from? If evil exist then good must exist too right? In contrast to being evil, who is good? Please don’t say humanity because I just don’t see anything good on the evening news. I long to see the day where the headline for the night is good news, but I haven’t seen it yet have you? So evil exists, where does good exist?

  • Good news:

    Good news: There’s a vaccine for HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer.

    Good news: Our troops are out of Iraq.

    Good news: DADT is repealed.

    Good news: Slavery is illegal in the USA.

    Good news: Women are (in principle) equal in our society.

    Good news: People continue to fight to make principle=practice, regarding women’s rights.

    Good news:

    Good news: . . . actually, screw it, others can add to the list. Finding good news in this world isn’t that hard to do.

    Humans are good, and humans are bad. This is a fact. The bad lets them write books claiming that God says it’s ok for the Chosen People to take slaves, so long as they’re prisoners of war. It lets them try to justify such behavior under “it’s a test for the slave” millenia later. It lets them abuse, rape, murder, cheat, steal, lie, get jealous, get possessive, claim that disbelief in absence of evidence is sin, claim that it’s more important to believe a particular empirical claim than it is to be empathetic to others, etc.

    The good lets us fight against all of the bad. It lets some of us spend thousands of dollars and years of our lives becoming doctors, lawyers who actually care about justice, cops, firemen, soldiers who protect freedom, bloggers who argue and stand up to any who would take away our rights in the name of religion, and who support charities for the less fortunate. Good is what lets us buy gifts for our loved ones, and donate to the less fortunate. Good is why many will choose less lucrative jobs than they could otherwise get, just so they can do something that benefits others.

    Good is what you get when you let reason, empathy, and respect for others guide your actions. Evil is what you get when you ignore reason, dehumanize others, and ignore any empathy you might feel. 

  • Momma J

    Nathan, maybe you missed the part in my last post where I mentioned twice that slavery in NOT okay. Yet why are you saying that I’m justifying it. I am not. I was simply saying, once again, that is a circumstance. ALL circumstance that people find themselves in can be seen as a test. The way the rich and powerful is a test as well. I haven’t met many generous rich men so I would say that they are kind of failing there test. Sure they give away a large $ amount that looks impressive, but look at the percentages of their wealth that they give away. Slavery is just another example of a circumstance.

    Confusing post by the way. According to your definitions of good and evil I and the church are both good and bad which I am prone to agree with. Are you saying that some of what organized religion does is good? 

    You mentioned that good is “…. who support charities for the less fortunate.” The church does that pretty well actually. I have friends all around the world who have moved to hard hit disaster areas to work to support, give supplies and rebuild. If you look at sheer numbers, the amount of money given from individuals to Christian aid agencies + the amount given by the global Christian church on whole is quite staggering!

    You also said that “Good is what lets us buy gifts for our loved ones, and donate to the less fortunate. Good is why many will choose less lucrative jobs than they could otherwise get, just so they can do something that benefits others.” I understand that I can always do better at giving, but I do give quite a bit to those less fortunate. I give away about 20% of my pre-tax paycheck. My wife and I have made a lot of sacrifices in order to do this. We both drive junky cars. We don’t have cable t.v. We eat Ramen noodles so we can stretch a dollar here and there. I am a qualified teacher who teaches  in the inner city. Just 15 miles away I could easily get a job in a number of school district in the suburbs and live a much cushier life (on the outside). My wife gave up a career as a chemical engineer with a large company to work part time and volunteer much of her time to charity organizations. All of this was done so that we could help out those who are less fortunate. Yet I am a follower of Jesus and his teachings. So am I good or bad? 

    Just so you know, all of the things that you listed as “bad” I agree with. Those things are bad. The things that you list as “good” I would say yes, most of those are good, if not great, IF, and it’s a big if. IF the motivation is in the right place. This is where Jesus’ teachings come in play. The focus of His teachings is that it doesn’t matter    what you do IF you do it with the wrong heart attitude. One could give $10,000  to a charity out of guilt, or spite. Celebrities do it all of the time when they get in trouble and the public finds out. Does that make them good? It’s good  that the money was donated but is the giver good? How can you tell? Is a person good because  of their actions? I believe that the adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ is true most of the time. But if actions speak loudly, then attitudes are even louder. Like 1000x’s louder. 

    It’s like telling 2 brothers after a fight to hug and make up. Sure they might do it for fear of the possible parent-imposed consequences, but what’s going on inside of them? If a person hugs someone else does that mean that they have no malice towards them? Actions can be good, but I don’t think that this makes a person good by any means. It’s the heart attitude that counts the most.

    ps If I have offended you Nathan I am truly sorry. Reading back through my previous comments I don’t understand how I have taken your rights away or have dehumanized you, but it’s possible. It could be that MY attitude wasn’t very loving or it  could have been a misunderstanding. If this has occurred I  apologize. This was never my intent by posting on this site 🙁



  • Putting my reply here, so that it’s actually legible. Sorry I haven’t replied earlier, time got away from me (it tends to do that).

    You haven’t defended slavery from the slaver’s point of view, but the defense you’ve given of it is almost as good, as it gives the slaver something to latch onto as a defense. “We’re helping the slave!” Which, by a strange coincidence, is very similar to what slaveholders did pre-Civil War in America.

    What more can be required of Slavery, in reference to the negro, than has been done? It has made him, from a savage, an orderly and efficient labourer. It supports him in comfort and peace. It restrains his vices. It improves his mind, orals and manners. It instructs him in Christian knowledge.


    As for the rich giving away their money, what percentage would satisfy you? 10%, as recommended for tithing? Regardless, that the rich are not usually seen doing due diligence to the welfare of their fellow humans is a black spot against them, I’ll agree, but that in no way makes slavery a good thing. And yet, there is nowhere in the Bible any word spoken against slavery as an institution. 

    Yes, I would say that you are both good and bad, as is organized religion. In your case, I cannot judge the relative balance of good vs evil in you, but in the case of organized religion, I judge the balance to be tipped to the side of evil. It has oppressed women, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It does this even today, right here in America. I’ve debated an otherwise liberal woman over whether it is proper for a woman to seek her father’s permission to marry, despite it being the 21st century! The uphill battle for equal rights for LGBTQ folk, the struggles -past and present- to get good information on safer sex into the minds of children, the endless cycle of guilt brought on by a doctrine of Original Sin, the forced ignorance of the most powerful explanatory tool for biology and medicine brought on by creationist nonsense, and many, many more, causes what little good religion has done to pale in comparison. And what good it has done, can be done by secular institutions (see Freedom From Belief foundation, see the Non-Believers Giving Aid Disaster Relief Fund, see the Humanist Community Project at Harvard as examples, and not exhaustive examples).

    Here’s a few bad things from the teachings of the New Testament Jesus that I consider bad, and I consider any who agree with this teachings to be bad to the extent they agree:
    Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard it said that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” 

    –Anger can be destructive, and lead to hate. But it is also a good, healthy emotion when used to spur one to action, when targeted against injustice, and when it keeps us from being apathetic. Also, notice the threat of eternal burning.

    Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” 

    –Like anger, we have another thought crime. Oddly, it’s one that seems designed to prevent many an initial attraction that leads to romance and love. I doubt I would have bothered pursuing my wife without some lust involved. The only problem with lust is the actions taken in response to it, not it’s mere existence in your heart.

    Matthew 5:31-32: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I way to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” 

    –Really? If two people are no longer in love, then to force them into remaining married -and presumably monogamous- is wrong. If anything can make a mockery of the marriage relationship, it’s not same-sex marriage, it’s that verse, right there.

    Matthew 5:38: “But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 

    –So not right. Evil needs to be resisted. You don’t have to be violent. Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted, and encouraged many others to resist, but he wasn’t violent.

    Matthew 8:21-22: Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” 

    –Yea, we should generally focus on life, but damn dude, let the guy grieve!

    Matthew 10:14-15 (said to the twelve disciples, instructing them on how to spread his word): “And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” 

    –Nice that he says not to pester people that don’t want to be converted. Totally NOT nice that he says the unconverted will be getting it worse than those in Sodom and Gomorrah. You remember those towns, right?

    Matthew 10:32-33: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 

    –There’s that disbelief being a sin thing you mentioned. I’ll reiterate, that’s the fault of a God that won’t make damn sure we know he’s real. But beyond that, to imply the threat of eternal torture for mere disbelief?? Wow, so not right. Oh, and if you prefer to interpret this verse as denying Jesus even if you believe, then you get a nice “with me or against me vibe,” with no allowance for honest disagreement.

    Matthew 10:34: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” 

    –Please don’t ever claim that Christianity is a religion of peace, when Jesus himself said he came for war.

    Matthew 10:35-37: “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter- in- law against her mother- in- law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” 

    –Um, no. I’m not even sure how to express how very wrong that is.

    Matthew 12:31-32: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” 

    –I guess people can stop praying for me. I’m pretty sure I’ve done plenty of that in this comment alone. But just so we’re clear, the only unforgivable sin is not rape, child rape, murder, incitement to war, genocide, stealing Grandma’s retirement fund, harassment, infanticide, beastiality, necrophilia,  lying, cheating, stealing, human sacrifice (naturally), oppression, slavery, contract breaking, or anything else that might actually be, you know, WRONG, but simply speaking against the supposedly good “Holy Spirit.” 

    Matthew 13:49-50: “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  
    –Eternal torture. For finite crime. That is not justice. That is not love. That is evil. If you’re right, Momma J, and God exists and will do all these things the Bible says, but the wife you mentioned dies an unbeliever, will you be happy in heaven, knowing she’s in hell? Forever? 

    One more, relevant to every atheist and skeptic:

    Mark 8:11-12: The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation need a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” 

    –Wrong, wrong, wrong! You want belief? You want trust? You want me to think you more worthy than John Edwards or Uri Geller? Give me the evidence, give me the proof. Otherwise, piss off, because you deserve no belief.

    You, yourself, Momma J, have not offended me directly. But to the extent that you support any of the above verses, supposedly spoken by Jesus, then you do disgust me. That’s not friendly of me, perhaps (and so I apologize to Hemant), but it is truth. 

    (I take no credit for compiling those verses, that credit goes to Greta Christina at ;However, the judgments are my own, and the agreements with Greta’s judgments a happy coincidence.)

  • J. Quinton

    The fine tuning argument is actually an argument against the Christian god. If the Christian god is defined as a god who is all knowing and all powerful, then any combination of physical constants would lead to the creation of human life. The Christian god could have us living on Mercury and use perpetual miracles to keep us alive. Or have us live on Neptune and use perpetual miracles to keep us alive (both reasonings are implicit in concept like theistic evolution). There’s actually no restriction on the type of universe the Christian god could create that would lead to human life. The fine tuning argument assumes a god who had to reference what type of universe humans could live in and then build a universe according to that restricted set of specifications. Do Christians think that their god is limited?

    Since the fine tuning argument is a probabilistic argument, this reasoning can be described using probability theory. P(E | H) would be the probability of the current universe’s combination of physical constants given that the Christian god created the universe. The fine tuning argument says that that P(E | H) = 100% or something really high, but this would mean that P(~E | H), or the probability of all other combinations of phsyical constants given that the Christian god created the universe is 0%. This is because P(E | H) + P(~E | H) = 100%.

    How many other universes could the Christian god create that would lead to human life? This is P(~E | H), and it seems that since the Christian god can do anything, to be exhaustive, the majority of the probability points in that direction. It actually seems to me that P(~E | H) would be the higher number, and P(E | H) is infinitely small, if, indeed, there is an infinite combination of physical constants that the Christian god could create.

    Then we have the likelihood ratio P(E | H) / P(E | ~H). If my reasoning is correct and P(E | H) is infinitely small (since it pales in comparison to P(~E | H)) then any other hypothesis that can account for our universe, ~H, is more likely since P(E | H) / P(E | ~H) is much less than 1.

    That’s why I think the fine tuning argument is an argument against the Christian god. Maybe Zeus created the universe, and the Greek pantheon is true? Who knows.

  • Faizan Raza

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